Twenty-Four Weeks, 6 Days ~ August 13, 2004
~ Humility and Awe
We're back from Alaska. The trip was an exercise in humility in many ways.
First, there was the traveling. I'm used to being able to do whatever I need to do while pregnant. After all, I'm the one who was loading logs into my dad's truck at 7 months pregnant with Gabe (impressing the heck out of him, since he was struggling with some of them, and I was just heaving them over the side of the truck without breaking a sweat). I'm not one for playing the fainting flower, fanning myself in a chaise while others work... at least where physical work is concerned (we're not counting housework, which I both detest and am bad at, and which I have managed at times to sit on my behind while someone else did it without noticing much that there was work going on... sorry, Will!). Proof that I've gotten better at even that part (the housework side) is how AWFUL I feel about the really powerful physical necessity of putting my feet up regularly, and not doing too much. Serious guilt.
So I spent some time learning humility. My body has always toughed things out, I've always had a bit more reserves no matter what I did, I've always been able to push past the margin and bounce back.
Not now. I push 10 minutes past when I should have sat myself down and rested, and I pay for it for a full day. Recovery is not based on reserves, because there are no reserves. I'm at max capacity, and what goes in gets used up in the course of each day. If I need to recover, I need to put in EFFORT to do so. It doesn't just happen. Even the just basic physical stuff is a no-margins game. I gain weight, but not fat. I cannot EVER forget to drink my water, because I get dehydrated so fast if I don't that it takes hours to catch up, if not days. If I don't eat enough, I crash, usually by 6-8 hours later.
So, traveling, I initially felt a bit silly asking for the electric cart in the airport. But I learned. Push it at all, and pay later.
I also felt silly asking for two drinks when the flight attendant came by. So sometimes I just asked for one. I got there dehydrated (not badly, but not as fully hydrated as I wanted to be). Not the plan. MUST stick to the plan. Period. No grace period, no fudging. On the way back, I took an extra bottle of water - 32 ounces. That helped.
Once during the trip up, I thought, 'oh, man, this was a BAD IDEA. We should not have come.' My legs were stinging with the swelling that was starting at my ankles and working its way up (despite serious compression hose). They didn't get very swollen at all, really, but it was unpleasant. I was tired. My pelvis ached like crazy, I couldn't stretch out, and forget putting my feet up high enough to help - not in economy class! Walking and stretching helped a bit, but I couldn't do that too much, either. By the time we reached Alaska, I was definitely serious about not overdoing it. I hadn't passed any serious margins, and had not even dehydrated enough to trigger a few Braxton-Hicks contractions (I think I had maybe 3 or 4 the whole time I was there), but it was not pleasant.
Once in Alaska, I had a much better time. Will and my sister drove most of the time, and while it was road construction season in Wasilla, I managed the few big bumps pretty well. Walking more and sitting less, while it made my pelvis hurt initially, left me feeling healthier and more fit when I got home than when I arrived. But walking still means walking only so far, and then resting, and then WHEN I feel able, getting up and walking again.
The next lesson in humility was food. Before we left, I was eating about every 2 to 2.5 hours, regularly. Up there, whether it was the extra activity (more walking, less sitting), or what, I don't know - but I was NEEDING to eat about every 1.5 hours. I'm kind of thinking I hit some kind of pregnancy transition, because that trend has stayed since then. We're not talking snack, either. EAT. Typical breakfast was a big bowl of oatmeal, two glasses of almond milk, and about 3-4 eggs. And sure enough, 1.5 hours later, I'd feel like I hadn't eaten since the night before! Eat again. Then again. Then again. Then again. The constant demands of my body was another lesson in humility. I AM NOT IN CHARGE HERE. The babies are. And they want food. So I feed them. Between the salmon and the eggs and the inevitable French fries (a lot of restaurant eating), I managed to actually add a slight fat pad over my belly! WOO-HOO! (First fat gain in the pregnancy, and I'll probably need a little to spare as they hit the later growth spurts...)
Fortunately, eating in Alaska isn't as much of a chore as eating at home. Interesting and different options made things much more pleasant. Halibut, fresh red salmon, caribou sausage, elk burgers, and the ubiquitous cabbage in various ways (cabbage grow like crazy up there in the constant daylight, regularly reaching 50 lbs per head!). Halibut burritos, poached salmon with lemon and basil, salmon with spice rubs, salmon with barbeque sauce, fried halibut in horseradish crust... many interesting options. Still humbling, though. I'm used to relinquishing control during labor. I'm not used to relinquishing it three months before labor.
Add in the humbling experience of not being fully able to manage the boyos (Gabe and Bren) all the time (let alone adding in our niece, Lindsay), and humility was getting to be rather a significant theme. Having to leave the parenting to my mom and Will and my sisters more than I'm used to... not a comfortable sensation. But I still felt grateful for the people to whom I could relinquish these precious burdens.
Then there was the hike. Ah, the hike. Archangel, up by Hatcher Pass. You know, the hike I did NOT go on? Yeah, I didn't go. Instead, I drove up the mountains with my uncle and my sister-in-law, the other two not fully able-bodied (or not able-to-hike-bodied) folk at the reunion. We went to Independence Mine, a historic park, and walked on the nice flat smooth paved walks, enjoyed the views of the mountains and valleys, and learned more than I thought I needed to know about gold mining. I decided to walk up a little ways on one of the up-valley paths, so that I could see down the valley over the tops of the mining buildings. Taking my 32 oz bottle of water with me, I walked. Very, very slowly. About 40 feet at a time. Forty feet, and then sit and rest (conveniently placed benches were a big help). After about three chunks of walking and resting, I looked up to the next level of the trail, looked down at my now-seemingly-7-month-plus-pregnant belly (at not even 6 months), patted the babies, and stopped. I rested a long time, then started the slow slow journey back down again. I remember realizing that I no longer felt funny about the limits my body set. They were there for a reason. And I had learned to listen.
Thankfully, with humility comes awe, if you look. Sitting there on the bench, overlooking the valley stretching away into the hazy distance (and it takes a LONG distance to get haze up there!), I stopped and just listened to the mountains. I'm a mountain girl at heart, and one of the joys of hiking, to me, is the sound of the mountains. Not just the birds, and the movements of animals, but... well, I remember as a child, a blind person came to our school to talk about disabilities. One of the kids asked how he knew which classroom to come to. He said he could hear the doorways as he passed them. The different shape and size of the space made the sounds different, so you could hear an open doorway as easily as see it. Later that night, I stood outside in our yard, and listened to the space, to see what I could hear. And sure enough, I could hear which direction the mountains were (we lived near the foothills of the Rockies). With my eyes closed, turning around and around, I could always pick out the direction of the mountains. I cannot tell you what their voice sounds like, but they speak in an enormous whisper, and I can hear. I still can hear them, and so I sat, and listened to the mountains, until I felt filled up with their whispering powerful presence. When I was as filled with awe as with humility, I walked back down.
The mountains were not the only source of awe. There was also the more gentle awe of the grace and generosity of others, the friends of my sister who invited us into their homes, shared their food and gifted us with salmon so red it didn't seem real. The willing offers of help and kindness, the excitement of another twin mommy encountered by chance (they seem to pop out of the woodwork if you are looking for them), and the willingness of my family to make room for my needs so seamlessly that noticing that they did so seemed an imposition.
There was also the usual awe of motherhood, the joy and delight of watching my two sons bounding into their lives every morning, soaking up the world through eager eyes and willing bodies, boisterous beyond the acceptable limits at times, but still humbling that they were made from part of me, and awe-inspiring in their delight in the world around them. The dogs, the dragonflies, the birds, and even the far more cerebral (if also rather juvenile) joy of playing Mad Libs in the car, lit them up like the blaze of the moon in the short Alaska night.
Through all the effort, and all the learning to listen, and all the hanging out with family, and the daily trip to somewhere else and somewhere else and somewhere else, there was still another awe that rose to the surface of my mind like a wave, over and over again. In moments between activities, and moments in the middle of conversations, or any time at all, came the shocking joy of realizing, yet again, that there are two babies growing in there, right there, in my belly. Two sets of feet pressing outwards in games played with my fingers. Two sets of elbows grazing my pubic bone as they turn to get comfortable. Two little square butts pushing out against my skin.
I may be working hard for every moment they're in there, learning humility by having it hammered into my head by reality, but they're worth it.
I am truly in awe.